Mailing a book to a jail

Is your buyer sending a book to a jail/prison? Good for them! I’ve had several orders that seem to be for inmates, judging by the addresses. I check the addresses on Google to confirm. Most correctional facilities refuse books from independent sellers. I learned to increase the odds that books will make it through to inmates by doing the following: On the outside return address I type “for Amazon” as the sender; I include a packing slip ( very important, looks official). Avoid tape. Be sure no writing is in the book (that could be considered a coded message.) Don’t send very violent or sexual themes; they will get tossed. I also send a nice note to the buyer of the book explaining that books are often not accepted by independent sellers and give them the choice of canceling the order or taking a chance. Parents, friends , just want to help their loved ones by sending them something to read.


I will add that most institutions will not allow hardcover books.

But best bet is to contact the institution and ask their requirements/ regulations.


@suzq48 , all good points.



Agree it is ideal to check with the institution if you have the time. Since it is really time- consuming, I usually don’t go that far.


…or anything on tattoos or grafitti or weapons or martial arts.


Several years back I had someone asking about supplying a pretty good amount of stuff to one of the prisons in MI.

It was going to be enough to make it worth the time.

I was told that it was up to the prison but there would be an ‘application’ with a ‘filing fee’ in order to be on the ‘exclusive’ supplier for those particular products.

It sounded enough like some of the shakedowns we had working in Chicago back in the ORIGINAL Mayor Daley back in the day that I decided to pass.


(I thought about “the Bible” as being free of violence, sexual themes, weapons, etc and, well…clearly it is an exception to the rule. Good chance they will let it in.)


When I moved to Chicago from NYC, in the Richard J Daley days, I was shocked by how inexpensive graft was. I missed any number of opportunities because I thought payoffs would be too expensive. I have often wondered if those days were more efficient than today.


I believe they were and there is an irony that ‘cleaning up’ the system had a negative effect of the population in many ways.

In my case I was the Assistant Office Manager for Interstate Bakeries near Wrigley Field. Three inspectors walked in to weigh the loaves.

Ten loaves.

Seven spot on, two HEAVY, and one light.

They have to shut the bakery down until they could verify the equipment was getting it right.

The plant manager went into the lunch room where they were, came out to the cash cage and got $500 in small bills. These were the days when the route drivers collected cash every day from the hundreds of small stores they dropped the bread off at so there was plenty of folding money in the safe.

Problem solved, we kept baking.

The bigger problem was management at the HQ went freaking nuts that he had done that. We all could hear him yelling at them from his office with the door closed.

They finally figured it out – lose tens of thousands of dollars in lost production, or pay up.
The next closest bread bakery in the system was in Cincinnati as I recall. Our South Side one was a cake bakery and wouldn’t be able to do bread orders.

The good old days when the political operatives not only got out the vote but made sure that garbage was picked up.


I lived in Chicago for 6 years during the reign of King Daley. I swore that the city motto was, “CHICAGO — where corruption is treated as Fine Art.”


It was an art form for sure. But, as much as it was corrupt, and as cooked as the votes were, the system and the city actually functioned a LOT better than it does now. AND it was, generally, safer – at least downtown. The South Side two or three blocks away from what was Comiskey Park and the White Sox games was a different story.

My wife was taking night classes at the Chicago campus of Northwestern by the Hancock Center and I used to take my son (then in a stroller and about 12 months old) from there all the way down Michigan Ave to the Art Museum and back with no problems. Not even any panhandlers in site back then.

Even if I was still the same age I sure as HE## wouldn’t think about doing that now.


I was surprised when the local precinct captain visited my wife and me within days of moving in to our South Shore apartment. He welcomed us and asked whether he could do anything for us. We politely declined but we mystified by what he meant.

Fast forward a year. My wife applied to teach summer school in the Chicago Schools. She mailed the application to the address on the application at the Chicago Board of Ed. Crickets. No response.

Several months later, a classmate at grad school whose wife taught in the system, advised me of the proper filing method. The precinct captain with a $25 donation. Had we known, she could have made several thousand dollars for that small donation.

I do not want to comment about safety on the Chicago streets in South Shore but have to offer my commendation and respect for the current residents of South Shore for fighting off the city’s plan to turn South Shore High into migrant housing. Way back in the late 60’s were among the few white faces there, and there probably are fewer today. The community refused to be victims of the current administration and prevailed.

As former New Yorkers who felt no fear in any part of that city, we never felt fear in Chicago, other than the day our VW Beetle with a McCarthy flower sticker on the doors was vandalized. Another gift of the Daley machine.


Some may find this site useful in locating the specific policies for the correctional facilities. It includes the official rules for most facilities, along with user reported feedback: United States Prison Mail Policies

When we ship to prisons, we do not include a packing slip and only have our company name followed by “AMAZON” on the return label. When we did include packing slips, we had returns, as it made it obvious that the orders were from third party sellers. Once we stopped doing that and added Amazon to the return address, we haven’t been sent anything back, other than for invalid addresses (missing IDs, inmate transferred, etc.).

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Thank you, that is a very helpful link!. Most of my orders are to jails, not prisons, and jails have varying rules about what they take in. For me, it has improved acceptance rate in jails to include packing slips, but that may not apply to all of them.

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